A good cup of coffee is something that once you find, you’re going to make it a part of your daily ritual whenever possible. Located at 141 Spadina Avenue, between Richmond and Adelaide Street West, people within a 20-block range or further will travel for a great cup of coffee in what has been boasted as the city’s smallest coffee shop. Taking up a modest 18 square feet of prime downtown real estate The Coffee Lab is housed in what was previously an office display window.
Owner, barista, and business entrepreneur Joshua Campos mans the coffee press and people order their cup of Joe through either their phone app or in person. Customers don’t come here to stay and work on their laptops like most coffee shops in the city, and even in the summer because outdoor seating is at a minimum, taste buds lead the way as people return again and again for carefully curated coffee to fuel their caffeine fix.
Previously employed in the mortgage aspect of the investment industry and then later in construction, Joshua Campos decided to change the trajectory of his career towards coffee. After studying the art of crafting the brew, The Coffee Lab was born. Today the Coffee Lab has an Instagram famous, signature drink, called The Drop, which is crafted using coffee beans from Glitch in Japan (where Campos mastered the technique responsible for creating the tasty beverage).
While the Coffee Lab may be the smallest coffee space in the world, (the current record holder in the Guinness Book of World Records is a 22 square foot coffee shop located in London, England), it’s certainly worth a visit, world record recognized or not. Even though there’s nowhere to sit, if you ask for your espresso to stay Campos will hand you a marble slate with a handmade cup and a gold-plated spoon for you to enjoy your drink like a true gourmand foodie.
What inspired you to open The Coffee Lab?
I've always wanted to open my own cafe with hopes of being the world's first Michelin star coffee shop.
You have the distinct honour of being the smallest coffee shop in the city, with no indoor seating, how does your clientele change with the seasons?
A lot of our orders are through the Ritual app. Ritual is a mobile application that allows users to order from their favourite local restaurants and coffee shops to skip the wait and have the order ready when you arrive or skip the trip by piggybacking on a team order and have your order delivered to your work by a co-worker. Ritual is offered at more than 2,500 restaurants and coffee shops and offers rewards that can be redeemed for discounts and free food at your favourite places to eat. So, people just pre-order and when they arrive it's ready so the seasons don't have much effect on business.
Where do you look for inspiration for your quote of the day?
Some I make up, some I get online.
What advice can you offer to budding entrepreneurs who want to open their own business/café /restaurant?
Just go for it! If you are waiting for the perfect time, that’s never going to happen.
What are the unique benefits of running your business as a ‘one man show’?
Our business model is to be number one in the business footprint (for the space that The Coffee Lab uses). In fact, in terms of our business footprint we provide three-times the customer traffic as the world’s number one retailer, Apple. The long-term goal is to open several locations in Toronto and expand into New York, Tokyo, Paris and all over the world using the exact same business model.
What research did you complete before opening The Coffee Lab?
I attended workshops at the world's best coffee school in Portland Oregon, the American Barista & Coffee School and then I worked for a couple of coffee Roasters (Ruffino Espresso and Sense Appeal) in the city to learn that side of the business. I also completed training at Glitch Coffee in Japan because they are known as the world’s barista and aero press champions.
What are some of your proudest accomplishments?
Two come to mind. 1) Being listed among the top three cafes in Toronto and top 20 in Canada. 2) There is also a highly reviewed Japanese coffee website that appraises the best cafes around the world and we are the only cafe in Canada on that site.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
Never give up!
What is your favourite item on The Coffee Lab Menu?
Where do you see your business in five years?
I see The Coffee Lab having 10 locations in Toronto, and our very first location outside of Canada.
When you aren't making your own coffee, where else do you like to get coffee in the city?
I'll usually just make coffee at home (if I'm not already coffee'd out from work).